Work starts on Siepac grid interconnection

Construction has begun on the 1830 km transmission line for the Siepac Central American electricity interconnection system. Presidents and vice presidents from the six participating countries, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, participated in a groundbreaking ceremony at an electrical substation near Panama City.

The transmission line will link to six national power grids through 16 substations and will have an initial 230 kW circuit. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is financing the project with $170m in loans for the six countries. Spain is providing $70m more in financing through an IDB-administered fund. These resources will add to the capital provided by the partners in Empresa Proprieta de la Red (EPR), the company that will build, own and operate the transmission line.

EPR expects the $385m project to be finished by late 2008. Construction will be shared between Italian-Argentine firm Techint Mexico and Spain’s Instalaciones Inabensa.

Mitsui Babcock wins US clean coal order

Mitsui Babcock has been awarded a contract worth over £50m ($94m) for the steam generator and auxiliary equipment for Louisville Gas and Electric Company’s (LG&E) and Kentucky Utilities’ (KU) Trimble County power plant in Kentucky, USA. The 750 MW supercritical clean coal plant will operate under high efficiency supercritical steam conditions.

Bechtel will manage the work on behalf of LG&E and KU, which is scheduled to start immediately and be complete by 2010. The plant will burn a mixture of sub-bituminous and bituminous coals with the steam generator being fitted with Mitsui Babcock advanced low NOx burners.

  • Babcock & Wilcox has signed a memorandum of understanding to supply eight identical supercritical coal fired boilers and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems as part of TXU’s solid-fuel power generation programme in Texas.

Hydro Québec sells Transelec

Canadian power company Hydro Québec is to sell its 92 per cent stake in Chilean transmission firm Transelec to a consortium led by Canadian investment fund Brookfield for C$1.7bn ($1.5bn). Transelec is the major transmission provider in the country supplying power to around 99 per cent of the Chilean population through local distribution companies. Its network includes 8300 km of lines and substations.

The Brookfield consortium includes the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and British Columbia Investment Corporation. It is taking steps to acquire the remaining eight per cent of Transelec Chile from the International Finance Corporation in a separate transaction.

Mexico forecasts $44.6bn power bill

Mexico’s Energy Ministry has published a new report on the country’s electricity needs up to 2014. It estimates that an investment of peso509bn ($46bn) will be required to meet an average annual power demand growth of 5.2 per cent. The report predicts that capacity will need to rise from 42 GW to 65 GW with the majority of new capacity coming from combined cycle plants.

The ministry’s investment promotion department has identified 11 power sector projects due to begin commercial operation from 2008-2012.

Ontario studies wind impacts

GE Energy has signed a contract with the Ontario Power Authority in Canada to study the impact of wind power on the Ontario electricity system. The study, which is also sponsored by the Independent Electricity System Operator and the Canadian Wind Energy Association, will be used to assist the development of an Integrated Power System Plan (IPSP).

The IPSP will cover a 20-year time frame and will establish direction, strategy, and an action plan for the development and implementation of renewable and other forms of generation and transmission to meet consumer energy supply needs.

US launches solar power initiative

The US Department of Energy is offering $170m over a three-year period for cost-shared, public-private partnerships to advance solar energy technology. The solicitation is part of President Bush’s Solar America Initiative (SAI).

The SAI aims to bring down the costs of solar energy systems to make them competitive with conventional electricity sources by 2015. The $170m funding opportunity announcement will focus on development, testing, demonstration and deployment of new photovoltaic components, systems and equipment.

News digest

Argentina: Alstom has been awarded a ten-year service agreement by Aluar Aluminio Argentino for the Aluar Extension II combined cycle plant that Alstom is building in Puerto Madryn, Argentina.

Chile: Canadian engineering firm Dessau-Soprin has secured a contract from Hidrosur S.A. with an estimated value of C$70m ($62m) for the design and engineering of the Rucatayo hydroelectric power plant in southern Chile.

Hawaii: Shell WindEnergy is to develop its first wind farm in Hawaii. The first phase of the project would provide up to 40 MW of wind power with later plans to add a pumped hydro storage element.

Mexico: Mexico’s state power company CFE has begun a consultation process over the bidding rules for the 535 MW Agua Prieta combined cycle and solar hybrid generation project.

Peru: Suez Energy Peru is in discussions with BPZ Energy over jointly developing an export gas pipeline from Peru’s Corvina natural gas field to supply the 180 MW power plant it is building near the town of Arenillas, Ecuador.

USA: Basin Electric Power is in discussions with GE Energy and Bechtel Power about the feasibility of developing an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle power plant in South Dakota.

USA: California-based Nanosolar has announced more than $100m of funding and plans to build a mass-production facility with an annual capacity for solar cells totalling 430 MW.

USA: FuelCell Energy has announced the successful demonstration of its stationary power plant’s ability to switch rapidly between natural gas and secondary fuel propane.

USA: Researchers at Penn State University have unexpectedly created a type of diamond in the process of investigating storage of hydrogen from anthracite coal.

USA: The National Institute of Standards and Technology is proposing new test and ratings methods for residential fuel cells that can help prospective buyers assess the economic value of fuel cell technologies.

USA: Toshiba International Corporation has been awarded a contract worth approximately $60m to supply a large supercritical steam turbine generator for Kansas City Power & Light’s 850 MW Iatan 2 power plant.

USA: Williams Power is to implement the InFusion Generation Management System from Invensys for its fleet of power generation assets to integrate its various automation systems.